Microsoft's global vice-president of education, Anthony Salcito, with a government representative at Sci-Bono. Picture: Supplied

Johannesburg - Technology plays a crucial role in the modern workplace and at home by making employees and students more productive in their personal and professional tasks.

Microsoft’s global vice-president of education, Anthony Salcito, is in the country to speak about how the company is empowering educators and inspiring students.

Microsoft is providing IT training and opportunities to diverse populations of young people to prepare them with the computational thinking and problem-solving skills necessary for success in an increasingly digital world, through partnerships with government, non-profit organisations and local business partnerships.

Globally, Microsoft has committed to investing $75 million (R1 billion) over the next three years in community programmes to increase access to computer science education for all youth, especially for those from under-represented backgrounds, and build greater diversity into the tech talent pipeline.

“More and better education, combined with early access to the tools and skills used in the workplace, are proven to help create healthier communities, economies and workers who are ready to enter the workforce,” said Salcito.

In South Africa, as with the rest of the world, educators face a variety of challenges ranging from planning and organising their day effectively to fit a broad range of activities into a limited amount of time, to using technology to help make lessons more accessible and entertaining for students.

The latter is very important in a country where schools face a maths and science participation rate of less than 45 percent, and a whopping 60 percent of schools have no computer lab facilities.

“Local initiatives such as the Microsoft Innovative Educator expert programme helps local teachers to integrate technology into their lesson plans and make use of inventive teaching methods to not only ensure that students know how to use technology, but are enabled to create technology, empowering them to become future innovators, inventors and entrepreneurs who will drive local economic growth, create jobs and solve problems within their communities,” says Zoaib Hoosen, managing director of Microsoft South Africa.

According to IDC’s Economic Impact of IT, Software and Microsoft in South Africa report, the IT sector will generate more than 77 200 new jobs over the next four years.

“Microsoft plans on playing an active role to ensure that South Africa realises this statistic by developing skills and providing opportunities for young people from basic education through to starting their own businesses.

“This will be done through programmes such as the Student to Business programme whereby we are partnering to create over 1 500 jobs through internships and the AppFactory programme in which we are training interns to develop over 800 locally relevant apps.

“These initiatives will help us create a bridge to employment and financial independence,” adds Hoosen.

In addition, Microsoft is sponsoring a year-long exhibition at Sci-Bono in Braamfontein, Joburg, which will be used to showcase the future of the classroom to local pupils and teachers.

This exhibition will feature various gadgets and applications including devices from Pinnacle that will enable visitors to get hands-on experience in the use of apps like Word, Excel, Skype and OneNote.

The case for gamification in the classroom will also be made as a driver of curiosity, persistence, concentration, and student engagement through educational games such as Minecraft.